With Christmas now done and dusted, it’s almost time for those inevitable New Year’s weight loss resolutions.
Normally the turn of the year will bring with it a host of celebrity endorsed fad diets, but I sense that the waters have changed over the twelve months. So, is common sense finally prevailing?
In short… no it’s not.
Now the fad diets have been replaced by the ‘eat clean’ brigade. Keto-warriors fuelled by bulletproof coffee and spiralized courgette are now preaching the healthy eating message.
But this holier-than-thou attitude actually helping anyone?
Death by diet
You should not feel that you have to live for your diet.
Unless you harbour ambitions of being an elite athlete, there are more important things to worry about that if adding a banana to your NutriBullet Kale smoothie will spike your insulin levels.
Here’s a thought. What if I told you something that no-one else seems to be telling you…
A diet does NOT have to be sustainable.
The ‘training mindset’
Would you perform the same training programme all year round? I sure hope not. So why should it be the any different for your nutrition?
There are certain training pillars that are common in every good training programme, but every good training programme is not the same. 5/3/1 does not look like Stronglifts. Westside Barbell methods do not look like Bulgarian methods. These programmes all work because they are underpinned by sound training principles.
Now, if your current nutrition is rubbish then just getting the basic principles right is going to be all you need.
Two rules (because every ‘diet’ needs a rule or two) that pretty much every good plan have in common are:
- Prepare as many of your own meals as you can.
- Prioritise protein and veggies at most of your meals.
Hit these two 80% of the time and you’ll probably be doing ok.
Sometimes, general ‘maintenance’ nutrition is unlikely to cut the mustard for your goal. Let’s say that you want to drop some body fat and you’ve got the basics fairly well covered. No we need a specific approach.
In training terms, think of this as a training block with one specific goal. A plateau buster.
For example, if you want a bigger squat you may decide on a 12-week focused programme all geared towards to improving that lift.
‘Short and hard’ or ‘long and limp’?
What would you rather do:
- Feel like you’re constantly fighting your ‘willpower’ (whatever that is) 24/7?
- Plan short ‘blocks’ of nutrition where you focus on a specific goal for a short duration?
These blocks, just like in training, can be structured in whatever way works for you. You could have two days every week where you focus on your dietary goals. It could be a solid four weeks every other month. It’s whatever programme works for YOU.
The short-term ‘let’s hit things hard’ approach is one that’s an easier psychological sell for a lot of people. It feels less like deprivation and more like an challenge. The goal seems closer and therefore more achievable.
What happens after the ‘diet’?
Well, what happens when you finish a training programme? You could just take a week or two off and then repeat things, that would work in most instances. But let’s explore some of your other options.
- Don’t bother training – i.e. the beer and pizza diet
- Go back to maintenance training – i.e. the sensible ‘basics’ diet
- Start a new – i.e. try a new ‘diet’ approach
(Almost) everything works
Low carb works. Low(-ish) fat works. Intermittent fasting works. Carb backloading works. Eating every two hours works…. you get the idea.
The difference is that some work better for a given individual at a given time. The best approach when for you in a busy December may not be the best approach for you in a quiet June. What worked to get you down from 20% to 15% body fat may not best the best way to strip down to 10%.
The point is that anything with sound principles behind it can work.
There’s nothing wrong with programme hopping for your nutrition, just so long as you stick with the plan long enough in the first place. There’s nothing wrong with ‘falling off the wagon’ every now and again, just so long as you don’t take it to the extreme.
Yes, food is fuel. Yes, food is a hormonal regulator. But it’s also something to be enjoyed. It shouldn’t come wrapped in guilt or bound to psychological stressors.
Let’s make 2016 a year where we all just take a step back and see the bigger picture.
#EatClean is not making the world a happier or healthier place for the majority of people. We need a new approach…